Preview: 2019 Formula 1 German Grand Prix – Hockenheimring

by Harry Slade
Sebastian Vettel

Round eleven of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship takes place this weekend at the legendary Hockenheimring circuit in Germany. The historic race was first held in 1926, with Rudolf Caracciola taking victory for Mercedes at the AVUS Berlin circuit. The first Formula 1 Championship race that was held in Germany was the 1951 German Grand Prix at the infamous Nordschleife Circuit – Alberto Ascari taking victory for Ferrari. This came a year after the formation of the championship, with Ascari winning a non-championship race the year prior.

It wasn’t until 1970 where the German Grand Prix would take place at the Hockenheimring, with Jochen Rindt edging out Jacky Ickx for the Lotus-Ford team. Seven years later Niki Lauda took a popular victory one year on from his horrific Nordschleife crash, as Hockenheim returned to the Formula 1 calendar – taking a much more permanent role.

It then took two decades for Formula 1 to truly be taken into the stratosphere in Germany. This was caused by the rise of the sports most-successful driver, the indomitable Michael Schumacher. The home-favourite took four wins at Hockenheim throughout his ground-breaking career, the first coming in 1995 for Benetton, and the final of the quartet coming in 2006 for Scuderia Ferrari.

However, as the post-Schumacher era in Germany has dawned, the Grand Prix’s future is now much bleaker, with no confirmation on the chances of a return to Hockenheim in 2020.

What Happened at the 2019 British Grand Prix?

Lewis Hamilton
Octane Photographic Ltd.

Lewis Hamilton took a record-clinching sixth Silverstone victory, the eightieth of his career. Suddenly, leaving Michael Schumacher’s record of ninety-one firmly in his sights. Teammate, Valtteri Bottas completed a Mercedes AMG Petronas one-two. As Monegasque Charles Leclerc completed the Podium.

Yet, it was Bottas who took pole, as he managed to edge out the championship leader by 0.006s. Ferrari and Red Bull Racing were locked into close quarters on Saturday, but Leclerc led the chasing pack. Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo led the midfield runners for Renault.

At the start, Hamilton hounded Bottas through the opening laps, challenging bravely into Brooklands and Luffield, only for Bottas to fight back through Woodcote and holding the inside into Copse and retaining the lead. At the same time Sebastian Vettel passed Pierre Gasly off the start and behind them Lando Norris produced a scintillating move to pass Ricciardo for seventh.

Verstappen and Leclerc’s battle for the final podium position then began to brew, with added tension following their tense battle for the lead at the Austrian Grand Prix. The Monegasque repelled the Dutchman in robust, but fair fashion holding his position.

The race was then turned on its head as Antonio Giovinazzi beached his Alfa Romeo car into the gravel trap at Vale; bringing out the Safety Car. This allowed Hamilton to leap ahead of Bottas, while Vettel and Gasly moved clear of their respective teammates. Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz Jr. was propelled to the head of the midfield as his teammate’s charge was effectively nullified.

Following the Safety Car, Hamilton moved clear of his rivals, as he waltzed to victory. Behind him chaos ensued, as Verstappen hounded Vettel, he passed him around the outside into Stowe, yet into Vale the German fought back – but he misjudged the situation, ploughing into the back of Verstappen. Leclerc also produced a superb move to return to his podium position ahead of Gasly. Meanwhile, Verstappen somehow recovered to fifth.

What happened at the 2018 German Grand Prix?

Sebastian Vettel
Octane Photographic Ltd.

Vettel looked to be the form horse on Saturday as he took pole for Ferrari, as Bottas completed the front row. Hamilton’s struggles were the real story however. With mechanical gremlins residing the Brit to fourteenth on the Grid.

The race began with Vettel in full control as Hamilton slowly moved through the field. Kimi Räikkönen was the first of the main contenders to stop, as he plotted a two-stop strategy. By this point Hamilton had already surged to fifth, with now only the main contenders up the road from him after passing Kevin Magnussen.

Following Vettel’s stop he came out behind his-then Ferrari teammate in Räikkönen, as the Ferrari’s were on differing strategies many would assume they would swap the scarlet cars. However, indecisiveness from the Maranello pit wall allowed Bottas and co. to close up to the Ferrari’s before the swap was eventually made.

The rain then began to fall, and Bottas eventually managed to pass Räikkönen for second, as a number of lower-placed drivers gambled for Intermediate and even full Wet tyres to turn their fortunes around.

Then on lap fifty-two, into the banked, left-hander of the Sachs Curve, Vettel slid off into the gravel trap before touching the barriers. Unbelievably, he was out of the race and had thrown it all away on home-soil. The Safety Car came out, leaving Hamilton remarkably at the head of the order.

Bottas aimed to challenge Hamilton on the restart but the Brit held off his teammate with a little help from his Mercedes team who warned the Finn away from attacking Hamilton. This left Hamilton free to take an unexpected win, leaving him on a charge to his fifth World Championship.

Tyre Strategy

Selected Compounds for Germany
Pirelli Media

Pirelli have brought the three middling compounds for this weekend in the C4 (Soft), C3 (Medium), C2, (Hard). This is the same combination that we most recently saw at the Austrian Grand Prix and is the most common choice so far this season. Intriguingly, conditions at Hockenheim are expected to be similar to the heat we saw in Spielberg – potentially this could allow the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari a shot at the might of Mercedes.

Renault and Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda have gone aggressive in the tyre stakes, with ten soft tyres apiece for them. At the other end of the spectrum, Mercedes, Red Bull and SportPesa Racing Point have eight of the Soft compounds each.

Circuit Guide

Hockenheim Circuit
Pirelli Media

The circuit itself is characterised by its high-speed nature, with the first sector defined by its Parabolica flat-out section down towards the hairpin. The final sector of the lap returns to more slow-speed sections as they head into the stadium section favoured by spectators due to the Mercedes grandstands.

The Safety Car probability at this Circuit is around fifty percent, similarly, predicting strategy is difficult due to the vast array of overtaking opportunities available at the Circuit, making a potential two-stop luxurious depending on the conditions.

What should we look out for this year?

The main story that will surround this weekends Grand Prix will no doubt be Vettel’s redemption if Ferrari have the speed to be competitive. The long flat-out sections of the opening sector will no doubt be Ferrari territory, whether or not they can hold out in the final section will be key to whether or not Vettel can take his first triumph in Hockenheim and his second victory on home-soil.

In this vein, Hamilton and Bottas’ title battle takes a relative backseat at Mercedes’ home circuit. But attention should certainly still be on the Mercedes as Bottas needs to respond to Hamilton’s run of form that has left Bottas thirty-nine points in his teammates arrears.

The budding rivalry between young upstarts Leclerc and Verstappen is also a key subplot to this weekend, with their battles spilling over to the last two race weekends. If they find themselves on track together once more it will no doubt produce remarkable racing between the future of the sport.

Staying with Red Bull drivers, Gasly remains under – pressure in spite of his strong result at Silverstone, with Daniil Kvyat and Alex Albon waiting in the wings it’s key that the Frenchman continues his Silverstone heroics this weekend.

The battle for best of the rest between the two Renault-powered cars is also of huge importance as we head to Hockenheim. McLaren currently lead their suppliers Renault by thirty-one points as the Woking-squad have been revitalised so far this season. Renault showed well here last year, Qualifying seventh and Eighth, this form needs to come to fruition in their challenge for fourth in the constructors.

Lance Stroll
Octane Photographic Ltd.

This weekend also marks a huge weekend for SportPesa Racing Point, the Silverstone-squad are bringing their highly anticipated upgrade package to this weekends race as they aim to return to the front of the midfield. The success of this upgrade will largely decide the strength of the seasons for the teams current incumbents – Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll.

Rich Energy Haas F1 Team are also at a crucial juncture in their season. As Kevin Magnussen will continue with their expected upgrade plan, while Romain Grosjean continues with the Australia spec car. At a track in which Haas locked out the third row on twelve months ago, they must aim to bounce back and return to the points for the first time since Monaco.

WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE FOR THE WEEKEND?

FRIDAY 26 July

Free Practice 1: 10:00 (UK Time)/11:00 (German Time)
Free Practice 2: 14:00 (UK Time)/15:00 (German Time)

SATURDAY 27 JULY

Free Practice 3: 11:00 (UK Time)/12:00 (German Time)
Qualifying: 14:00 (UK Time)/15:00 (German Time)

SUNDAY 28 JULY

Race: 14:10 (UK Time)/15:10(German Time)

Daniel Ricciardo
Octane Photographic Ltd.

HOW CAN I KEEP UP TO DATE WITH ALL OF THE ACTION OVER THE WEEKEND?

The Checkered Flag will provide you the latest news, updates and reports over the weekend’s action and throughout the 2019 FIA Formula 1 Championship and beyond this season.

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